US icon gets Australian made wheels
The Australian startup that rocketed onto the world stage with a set of ultra-light (and ultra-expensive) carbon-fibre wheels has made headlines again.
This week, Ford has confirmed that the carbon-fibre wheels of its new Shelby Mustang GT350R are supplied by Carbon Revolution, which is based in the Victorian city of Geelong - familiar territory for the Ford Motor Company.
Revealed in January, the GT350R is billed as the most track-capable variant ever to feature in the Mustang range, and Carbon Revolution’s wheels make a significant contribution to that claim. Fitted as standard to the Mustang GT350R, the lightweight carbon-fibre 19x11-inch front and 19x11.5-inch rear wheels save just over 8kg at each corner - marking a significant 50 percent saving over aluminium wheels. But, while reducing overall bulk is always valuable, it’s the reduction in unsprung weight that Ford is crowing about the loudest, along with a 40 percent reduction in rotational inertia, promising faster response to driver input.
Ford says that another key advantage came with the special recalibration of the GT350’s springs and MagneRide dampers, where the response time had proven so fast that a crucial curb strike test left the project’s test driver unsure if it had even been performed correctly. “The suspension response was fast enough to greatly diminish the severity of the impact – that’s the power of minimizing unsprung weight,” Ford said in a statement.
Success in the curb strike test was just one part of the Carbon Revolution wheel’s design, which also boasts protection against UV and chemical exposure, and extreme heat through the braking system. Extreme, as in, beyond 900 degrees celsius.
To combat the heat coming off the GT350R’s rotors, Carbon Revolution’s wheels are treated to a special “ceramic plasma arc spray” thermal coating that takes its inspiration from the aerospace industry. It’s the sort of technology utilised by NASA for the Space Shuttle program, and it's also used in top-tier open-wheel racing. “The GT350R wheels would need to fulfill all of these demands in order to proceed to production,” Ford says.
“A common misconception of carbon fibre is that while it’s strong, it’s also a brittle material. Some formulations may have this characteristic, but carbon fibre’s durability is a feature of the type of resin and design intent of the part. The wheels of Shelby GT350R are designed to be stiff, light and resilient.”
Specific details of Carbon Revolution’s deal with Ford have not been revealed, although Ford itself has confirmed that it will produce just 37 examples of the GT350R in 2015. As for the GT350R’s potential for an Australian debut, Ford Australia spokesperson Neil McDonald confirmed with CarAdvice today that the new special is expected to be built exclusively in left-hand-drive form.
But, with the new Mustang only recently launched onto the global stage, more special-edition models are likely to appear in the future.